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Many of us are working hard to use less energy at home, but what is the state of energy efficiency policies in the US? According to an American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report, the US ranks 9th in energy efficiency out of the 12 countries with the largest economies. What is it about the US that has us lagging behind China, Japan and six other countries, and what changes are in store?

Energy Efficiency Policies - How Do They Affect You? (The Dirt on Green}

The ACEEE 2012 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard includes metrics like the efficiency of buildings, industry, transportation and a category called national effort. We find ourselves so far down the list largely due to poor performance in transportation (due in part to our sprawling size and lack of a robust public transportation system) and “national effort,” which reflects our commitment to energy efficiency policies and programs.  

So what’s happening at a national level?

Even though we are behind our peer countries, some exciting things are happening that should ultimately trickle down to us. For some things, we aren’t likely to see the impacts in our own pockets for a while, but less expensive fuel and more jobs will incrementally make things better for all of us.  


Appliance and Equipment Standards will have an immediate impact on energy costs for many people. A series of laws and regulations, beginning with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (1975) through the Energy Independence and Security Act (2007), have established appliance standards that have benefited consumers directly. Examples include reducing the amount of electricity microwaves use in standby mode by 75% and mandating that, independent of the technology used, light bulbs must consume about 25% less electricity than they used to. R. Neal Elliott, Associate Director for Research at ACEEE, writes that consumer savings from standards that are already in place will add up to a cumulative savings of about $1.1 trillion by 2035.

Building Codes

One of the easiest ways the government can help consumers save energy and therefore money, is to include energy efficiency requirements into building codes. According to the Department of Energy, the Building Energy Codes Program is estimated to save consumers up to $230 billion on their utility bills by 2040. They plan to achieve this in many ways, including climate-specific design, high efficiency windows, lighting and insulation.

Other initiatives offer exciting changes that will take some time to trickle down to the consumer. For example, the Department of Energy’s federally funded budget allots over $2.7 billion to energy and the environment.  Just a few of the ways this money is spent includes:

  • making algal biofuels more available and less expensive
  • funding for Next Generation Power Electronics Institutes to develop more efficient power electronics that will make devices smaller, faster and more energy efficient
  • tax credits for companies manufacturing things like energy efficient furnaces, energy conserving light technologies, specialized electricity transmission towers, and components to enhance electric-motor transportation
  • advancement of high-tech fuel efficient American automobiles

Recently, significant energy efficiency measures were written into the 2013 Climate Action Plan. By reducing wasted energy, families and businesses stand to save a tremendous amount of electricity. This is accomplished by:

  • emphasizing appliance standards (like those for microwaves)
  • funding energy efficiency upgrades in affordable multifamily properties
  • incorporation of energy efficiency factors in mortgage underwriting and appraisals
  • expanding the Better Buildings Challenge

There are many programs and policy frameworks that can help local, state and federal law makers prioritize energy efficient policy decisions. For instance, the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy was created in 2012 and has identified solutions for increasing US energy productivity (the amount of productivity we get for the energy we use) while stimulating the economy. Their approach includes tactics as simple as educating the public about energy efficiency and as involved as reform of energy efficient tax incentives. They estimate that if their recommendations are implemented, Americans could realize a net savings of over $1000 a year in energy and transportation costs.

Another example is the Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge, an amendment to the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. Originally introduced in 2011, the next step is for it to pass the Senate, then the House, before making its way to the President’s desk. Among other things, this act specifically addresses building codes, industrial efficiency and an interesting program called Supply Star. Like its cousin EnergyStar, Supply Star will allow consumers to make informed decisions by recognizing companies and products with highly efficient supply chains. If implemented, it is projected to create tens of thousands of jobs by 2020 and save over $2 billion in energy costs. 

Energy Efficiency Policies - How Do They Affect You? (The Dirt on Green}

While some national efforts aren’t making an impact yet, states are taking up the slack. For example, many of our peer nations have national energy savings targets that provide reasonable goals that encourage investment and the implementation of existing technology and programs. Simply put, we don’t have one. Fortunately, half of our states have put together something similar: Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS). For example, Massachusetts, Vermont and Arizona require an energy savings of 2% annually. Some states are using the framework created by the EPA’s National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency.  

Energy Efficiency Policies - How Do They Affect You? (The Dirt on Green}

There’s no way to tell which of the frameworks will ultimately stick, but there is certainly a rising tide that stands to benefit us all. In the meantime, you can stay ahead of the curve by continuing to upgrade your light bulbs to LED lights, appliances and devices to energy efficient products and install proper insulation. The best part is that politics aside, all of these changes are designed to save you money on fuel and electricity.

Dawn Richards of EnergyEarth

© 2014 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

One of the Most Important Things We Don’t Understand

Long ago, the energy we used to do things like heat and cook came from locally sourced firewood. It was easy to gauge how much we needed and how much we had left. It was hard work to chop and haul that energy source, so folks probably didn’t keep putting wood on the fire when they didn’t need the heat. Now that obtaining energy in the form of electricity is as easy as flipping a switch, we don’t have much reason to think about where it comes from and how it’s made.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

According to the World Bank, all but about 1 billion of us have access to electricity. This doesn’t mean there are a billion people without a source of energy – it’s just not in the form of electricity. Those without access, and some with limited access, still rely solely on solid fuels like coal and wood for heating and cooking.

That leaves about 6 billion people, most of whom probably rely on electricity virtually every minute of every day. I recently asked a random assortment of ten people to explain how electricity is generated. The result? All but two of them hadn’t the faintest idea how burning coal, nuclear reactions or spinning wind turbines leads to the electricity that powers our lives. One of the reasons that electricity remains such a mystery is that we don’t need to think about it.

How Much Do We Use?

Six billion people use a lot of electricity. Together, we required the production of over 22,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2011. Tera-what? The metric prefix ‘tera’ indicates a trillion of something. For perspective, it would take just 1 TWh of electricity to light 10 billion 100W light bulbs for an hour.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

With a population of a bit over 300 million, Americans comprise 4.45% of the world’s population (US Census Bureau data), yet we consumed 21.5% of the electricity generated worldwide. In 2011, more than half of our electricity came from coal (42%) and natural gas (25%) combustion combined. Especially in the US, the contribution of natural gas is on the rise, bucking the predicted price increase and remaining competitive with coal.

Compared to the world breakdown of fuels, we’re not that far off, except that hydropower comprises a greater proportion of global electricity production (15.8%) than it does in the US (just a few percent).

I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout

More than 80% of the world’s electricity is generated through thermal generating systems. Fuels like coal, natural gas, oil and even biomass (like wood and animal waste) are burned in large furnaces. The resulting heat is used to boil water.

The steam travels through boiler pipes where the pressure and speed turns the blades of a turbine. That mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy inside the generator because of the relative rotation between magnets and an electrical conductor.  The resultant electricity is run through transformers before beginning its journey along the electrical grid.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

Nuclear power is a mystery to many people, but in simplest terms, nuclear electricity generation is just another way to boil water. When radioactive materials like

Uranium-235 are bombarded with neutrons they split apart in a process called fission. This process releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of heat. After that, it is the same as burning fossil fuels: the heat boils water, the water turns to steam and steam turns a turbine which is attached to a generator. Voila, electricity! Interestingly, December 10th marked the end of a 20 year program called “Megatons to Megawatts” whereby the United States purchased the uranium from 20,000 retired Russian warheads and processed it for use in power plants. Since 1993, 10% of our electricity supply has come from this material. That’s more than all alternative energy sources combined. Even though we’ve received our last shipment, the uranium from those warheads will be providing Americans with electricity even after 2020.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

It is worth noting that a technology called solar thermal electric generation has begun to have an impact on US markets in the past few years. Clustered in the US Southwest, these facilities use various methods to focus the sun’s energy to boil water which generates electricity as described above. Though this technology still occupies a very small share of the market, a recent report by the US Energy Information Administration reports that several new large installations are about to double the electricity generating capacity of this method.

Mother Nature Turns the Turbine

Humans have been using the sun, water and wind as energy sources since the beginning of time, yet they comprise what we call alternative energy. To generate electricity, wind and water turn the turbine directly, skipping the energy-losing step of boiling water, and the rest of the process is the same.

The immense natural power of water can be used to turn a turbine through a variety of methods including channeling through dams, submerging the turbine in an area with predictable tides, using the pressure created by ocean waves, and even small turbines submerged in minimally disturbed rivers and waterfalls. Hydropower is not without problems but continues to comprise a large portion of the renewable energy sector.

Wind power continues to be a rapidly growing source of renewable energy throughout the world. Detailed wind maps are constructed to find locations with adequate non turbulent wind without too many powerful bursts. Installations can be found on mountain ridges, plains, coastlines, and in coastal ocean waters. Wind power is not without controversy. Just last month amidst great controversy, the Federal Register published a decision designed to promote the development of wind power but may lead to an increase in the deaths of golden and bald eagles.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

Geothermal electricity generation is another example of using nature to turn that turbine. The United States led the world in geothermal electricity generation last year, providing us with four times as much electricity as solar based methods. These plants use the steam that is produced from heat that occurs naturally a few miles beneath the Earth’s surface in some places.

Photovoltaic cells, what most of us think of as solar power, are unique in that there is no steam or turbine. The special materials used in photovoltaic cells are called semiconductors. When sunlight strikes certain semiconductor materials (e.g., silicon) photons are absorbed and electrons are released. We can then channel these electrons into an electrical current. Materials that do not exhibit this photovoltaic effect just absorb the photons and heat up when struck by sunlight. Technological advancements in semiconductor materials that can be applied in thin layers and still efficiently turn photons into electricity are progressing so rapidly that the IEA predicts photovoltaics will grow more than 11.5% a year through 2040.

The Most Efficient Solution

The energy mix that powers your home with electricity depends on where you live and your utility company. For instance, power companies serving California, Oregon and Washington generate more of their electricity using hydropower than any other single source. In contrast, the primary source for the south atlantic states is coal. As consumers we don’t have much control over our electricity sources, but Amory Lovins, physicist and energy expert, called energy efficiency the world’s biggest untapped energy resource. By using less energy to perform the same task, we are not sacrificing comfort or convenience, simply using less electricity. The justification begins with the money you can save and has far reaching implications. Switching to energy efficient products is easy and EnergyEarth is here to help.

Dawn Richards of EnergyEarth

© 2014 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved

Sources:

http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2013.pdf

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=13791

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/business/international/last-shipment-of-nuclear-fuel-from-russian-bombs-heads-to-us.html?_r=0

http://phys.org/news/2013-12-solar-power-sector-small.html#jCp

http://energycommerce.house.gov/press-release/subcommittee-examines-role-diverse-electricity-generation-portfolio

http://keshefoundation.org/image/keshe_generator/Electricity_Production_400.jpg

We live on the Blue Planet, yet less than 1% of Earth’s water is available for human use. Still, an average American household uses 400 gallons a day, costing well over $300 a year1. The American Waterworks Association blames persistent droughts and infrastructure upgrades for the forecast that our water bills are going to double or triple in the next 25 years.

So where does our water come from? According to the US EPA2, about 90% of Americans use municipal water, with 34% being supplied with treated groundwater and 66% supplied with surface water3. The remaining 10% of Americans get their water from domestic wells.

Ground water is considered by some to be the Nation’s most important natural resource due to our heavy reliance on it for agriculture and municipal water supplies.  Municipally treated groundwater and domestic wells typically use water that is stored in porous geologic formations called aquifers.  When it rains on land, the water that doesn’t stay on the surface soaks into the ground and may be trapped in aquifers.  While some of this important resource (30% of the world’s fresh water!) consists of that recent rainwater, much of it is called ‘fossil water’ and has taken millions of years to accumulate.  Don’t think about aquifers as flowing underground rivers though, since most of them are more like saturated sponges.

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

Surface Water: Even more of our household water comes from rivers, lakes and reservoirs that hold rainwater and surface runoff until we are ready to use it. The land over which this water drains is called a watershed. These areas of land can encompass many states for large river systems. For instance, the Mississippi River watershed includes parts of 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The largest US reservoir, Lake Mead, gathers snow melt from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah and supplies millions of people with water in the southwestern United States.

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

Water wars rage on! Since miners and settlers rushed to the dry, dry west, water diversion has been a problem. With the continual decline in Colorado River reservoirs and growing populations, it’s not getting any easier. Even in the southeast where rainwater is plentiful, Georgia and Tennessee have been arguing over their border for 200 years. A tiny one-mile strip of land could swing an estimated 1.6 billion gallons of Georgia runoff away from Tennessee and toward thirsty Atlanta4.

Where does my water come from and how do I know if it’s safe? The best way to learn about your drinking water is to contact your local utility. They can tell you about the source of the water and how they treat it.

Unless you are supplied with water by your own well, you should be supplied with a short report (consumer confidence report or drinking water quality report) from your water supplier by July 1st each year. These reports are easy to read, clearly define what they measure, and have a clear “Violation” or “Compliance” column that indicates if your water meets government standards.  Mine looks like this:

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

Another option is to use this interactive map from the EPA . In all cases, once your supplier draws water from a river, reservoir or groundwater, the water is treated to meet federal and state standards established by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Should I drink bottled water instead? About half of all bottled water may just come from someone else’s tap! There is no guarantee that it’s cleaner than tap water, and it probably doesn’t taste any different. You’re just paying for the convenience of having it packaged in that tiny bottle. Americans buy billions of gallons of bottled water each year, and according to the American Water Works Association, we are paying about $7.50 per gallon for single servings of bottled water – that’s about 2000 times the cost of tap water and twice that of gasoline!

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

Do I really need to turn off the water while I brush my teeth? For those of us who live in rainy parts of the country it’s hard to imagine ever running out of water. The US Drought Monitor has an interesting tool where you can see weekly and seasonal drought predictions. I’ll admit I was shocked to see how much of our country is experiencing severe and extreme drought! Many of the states in the colored regions are implementing drought management strategies for agriculture, industry and municipal water systems.

How can I use less water and save money? You may not be surprised that the top three uses of household water in the US are toilets, washing clothes and taking showers – in that order. But did you know that the biggest savings comes from using less hot water?

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

So what can you do? Americans use more household water flushing toilets than anything else. Newer toilets with a dual flush mode, like those described at EPA Watersense, do the job while allowing you to be a bit more discerning about the size of the flush. Where a new toilet isn’t feasible, you can install a simple and inexpensive toilet tank bag to reduce the size of your flush without sacrificing power.

The second highest water use is for washing clothes. Other than being more selective about what you put in the laundry basket, the best thing to do is to upgrade to an ENERGYSTAR qualified washing machine when it’s time for a new one.

If you really want to see a major savings in your water bill and your electric bill, make the switch to awater saving shower head. Since water heating can comprise more than 15% of your electric bill5, and showering is the third highest water use, you’ll see immediate results!

If you’re really serious about saving money on water and electricity, check out products like faucet aerators, outdoor water saving devices, rain barrels, water heater accessories and much more at www.energyearth.com.

— Dawn Richards of EnergyEarth

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 Sources:

1. http://www.awwa.org/

2. http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/drinkingwater/pws/index.cfm

3. http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1344/pdf/c1344.pdf

4. http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/2013/04/18/georgia-tennessee-water-dispute/

5. www.eia.gov

Electricity is needlessly trickling from dozens of devices in each of our homes, costing Americans $3 billion in energy costs each year.1  Vampire power, also called phantom power, ghost load or idle current, is a slow but constant flow of electricity that occurs even when devices appear to be off.  Although vampire power is sneaky and probably lurking in your home at this very moment, a little knowledge and a few great products will turn you into a vampire slayer – no garlic required.

I Vant to Suck Your Energy: The Truth About Vampire Power

Let’s face it, we all use electricity and we don’t like feeling guilty about it.  In response to the 1973 oil crisis, President Nixon asked Americans to “accept some sacrifices in comfort and convenience so that no American would have to suffer real hardship.”2 Today, if we eliminate just the electricity we waste in standby mode, we would meet 10% of Nixon’s reduction goals with absolutely no sacrifice in comfort or convenience. In fact, you won’t even notice until you get a lower electricity bill.

Many of our previous blogs have highlighted easy ways to save a lot of money by using electricity more efficiently (with CFLs, LEDs and other ENERGY STAR qualified products, just to name a few), but stopping vampire power is about conservation.  So what’s the difference?  Energy efficiency depends on technology to get the most out of each kilowatt of energy you buy. Conservation, on the other hand, is just plain using less electricity, regardless of the method. Eliminating vampire power is conservation without the sacrifice.

Vampire Hunting: How do you identify the extent of vampire power that is drawn in your home? Basically every device that rests in standby mode or has an indicator light is drawing power – and we have a lot of these. I found out how much electricity I was wasting a while ago when I stumbled to the kitchen in the middle of the night for a glass of water.  I was shuffling my feet across the floor, sure that my dog was laying in my path, when I realized that I could actually see. My fire alarm indicator, VCR (yeah, I have one of those), DVD player, TV, speaker, laptop charger and microwave clock provided just enough light for me to see the heap of fur in the hallway and the water glass in the kitchen. Groggy, I returned to bed thinking about those twinkling eyes staring at me in the darkness.  These were the eyes of vampires that were sucking my electricity – and money!

How to Identify Vampire Power:

Look for:

        • External power supplies
        • Large plugs (some cell phones)
        • Chargers with brick batteries (laptops)
        • Indicator lights and continuous display (clocks)
        • Devices with remote controls

Listen for a hum indicating an active drive or a fan

Feel for warmth indicating the flow of electricity

Measure the draw of electricity using a monitoring device

Sometimes that small draw of electricity is necessary. Devices with internal clocks, cable modems or routers, and appliances with temperature monitoring functions (such as refrigerators and HVACs) actually need to be on all the time. For most people, the biggest unnecessary drain of electricity comes from AV and office equipment with lots of peripherals, or accessory electronics. For instance, in my home office I have a desktop computer, laptop, printer, scanner, internet router and computer speakers. Even when I did remember to turn all of these devices off at night, they were still drawing electricity in standby mode.  I will admit that I never – and I mean never – bothered to unplug them all.  The same goes for my TV and its peripherals. There is no way I would tackle that mess of wires just to prevent what seemed like a mere few watts of electricity sacrificed to the vampires. When I learned from energystar.gov that an average US household wastes over to $100 annually on standby power, I realized it was worth taking action.

The Worst Offenders*

  • Desktop computer: $7/month
  • Game consoles: $6/month
  • Plasma or LCD TV: $5/month
  • Cable box with HD DVR: $3/month
  • Laptop with screensaver images: $1.50/month
  • DVD player: $1/month

*Data from: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Weapons for Slaying Vampire Power: Of course, the quickest fix is to unplug all of the devices that you are not using. This may be reasonable for the television in the guest bedroom, but are we really going to unplug all of these things every night and each time we leave the house for work or vacation? Probably not. Even if you’ve purchased ENERGY STAR qualified devices with the lowest power consumption in standby mode, you can take it one step further.

I Vant to Suck Your Energy: The Truth About Vampire Power

Smart power strips are the most powerful tool in your vampire slaying arsenal. I bought this BITS Smart Strip Power Strip and now I need to turn the lights on when I get up during the night! I plugged my television into the blue Control outlet, my cable modem and phone into the red Always On outlets, and the peripherals like my DVD player in the green Energy Saving outlets. It’s pretty remarkable how my peripherals power up automatically when I turn on my TV. Once the TV is switched off, the power strip stops the flow of electricity to all outlets except those designated to stay on all the time. It just doesn’t get any easier than that.

I Vant to Suck Your Energy: The Truth About Vampire Power

A host of other devices will accomplish the same result. The Save A Watt TV Standby Killer ensures your TV is actually off, not just in standby.  Chargers like the Belkin Conserve Valet draw no current once your phone is fully charged. Better yet, if you want to make an informed decision about where to start conserving, you can always use an energy monitor like the Kill A Watt to measure the amount of electricity used and cost of operating your devices even when they appear to be off.

How to Slay Vampire Power:

  • Unplug devices that aren’t in use
  • Use smart power strips
  • Switch to ENERGY STAR qualified devices with low standby power use
  • Use chargers that power down once  the device is fully charged

Forewarned is Forearmed:  Now that you know how much you stand to save and how easy it is, get out there and do something about it! Without sacrificing your way of living, you’ll begin to notice your electricity bill creep downward. Once you’ve been bitten by the energy savings bug, you’ll thirst for more. Check back often for more energy saving tips and product information.

— Dawn Richards of EnergyEarth

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

  1. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=about.vampires

  2. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=4208#ixzz2hERYMG93

  3. http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/aer.pdf

  4. http://standby.lbl.gov/faq.html

vampire power infographic: http://www.radiant.co.za/blog/index.php/about-standby-vampire-power/

vampire tools image: http://www.savvyhousekeeping.com/antique-vampire-killing-kits/

 

So you’ve decided to make the switch to energy efficient lighting? Don’t stress – the EnergyEarth Bulb Selector is here to help.

There are several things to consider once you’ve decided to switch to more energy efficient light bulbs. The EnergyEarth Bulb Selector is a great way to learn about lighting and decide which bulb is right for you.

Bulb Type

The first question many people ask is “Which type of bulb should I buy?” The good news is that if you’re switching from incandescent bulbs, you’ll notice significant savings by switching to either CFLs or LEDs.

While LEDs are the best long term investment, you may decide to take the intermediate step to a CFL. There are CFL and LED bulbs for every light fixture and preference, but if your budget allows, LEDs will save you the most money over the life of the bulb. This is in part because they will last so much longer than CFLs and incandescent bulbs. You don’t need to worry about trusting the manufacturer’s claims since at EnergyEarth you’ll get our 4everLED Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Brightness

CFLs convert energy to light about 75% more efficiently than incandescents – that’s why they don’t get scorching hot like the old type of light bulb. LEDs are even more efficient and stay cool during operation. That’s why it’s important to start thinking about the brightness of your light in terms of lumens, not watts. Since a 60 watt incandescent produces about 800 lumens of light, you want to replace it with a CFL or LED that produces 800 lumens. They only use 14 watts and 12 watts of electricity respectively!

Which Light Bulb is the Right One for Me? - The EnergyEarth Bulb Selector

Color

Once you decide the type of bulb and the brightness (lumens) you want, you’ll need to figure out which bulb will best mimic the light from your incandescent.

Incandescent bulbs emit a yellowish or warm light.  This description refers to the color of the light.  Unfortunately, the convention for measuring the color can be unfamiliar to many of us.  The good news is that even if you don’t want to bother understanding this part, you can go to the Bulb Selector straight away and we’ll help you narrow down your choices.  Here are the basics:

  • Light color is measured using a unit called Kelvin (K) and is also called “color temperature”.
  • Lower Kelvin numbers mean the light will be more yellow; as the Kelvin numbers get higher, the light will appear whiter, then indicating a blue appearance.
  • The color temperature of incandescent bulbs is within 2700-3000 Kelvin
  • The color temperature of daylight is near the highest end of the scale (6500K)

Which Light Bulb is the Right One for Me? - The EnergyEarth Bulb Selector

What about my fixtures?

Do you have a decorative fixture, recessed can, ceiling fan or something else? It doesn’t get easier than the Bulb Selector.  You can browse through the fixture type and see the color temperatures available for each type of light fixture at a glance. Once you narrow your search by fixture type and color, you can easily find an efficient bulb with the equivalent brightness.

Which Light Bulb is the Right One for Me? - The EnergyEarth Bulb Selector

Making the switch shouldn’t be hard. We’re here to help you save money and energy every step of the way.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

CFLs: Savings in a Twist!

October 1st, 2013 | Posted by EnergyEarth in Ask the Expert - (1 Comments)

Compact fluorescent light bulbs – to switch or not to switch?

You’ve heard that CFL bulbs can save you money, provide the same light as incandescent bulbs and need to be disposed of properly. But do you know how? Let’s find out!

CFLs: Savings in a Twist! {The Dirt on Green}

How do they work?

CFLs use a completely different technology than traditional incandescent bulbs. Instead of an electric current running through a metal wire, an electric current is transmitted through an internal ballast and into a tube containing argon and trace amounts of mercury vapor. These elements then emit UV rays, which energize the fluorescent (phosphor) coating on the inside of the tube, releasing visible light. The initial illumination uses slightly more energy than an incandescent bulb so a slight flicker can sometimes be seen as the bulb warms up (this typically takes 30 seconds to 3 minutes to complete, depending on the bulb); however, the energy needed for continued operation is significantly lower.

CFLs with decorative covers like globe or reflector shapes have a unique design challenge and often have a slightly slower warm up time, meaning that they take longer than bare spirals to reach full brightness.

Older CFLs used large and heavy magnetic ballasts that caused a buzzing noise in some bulbs. Most CFLs today — and all ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs — use electronic ballasts, which do not buzz or hum.

How do they save me money and how much?

Since CFLs use about 75% less energy to produce the same amount of light as the equivalent incandescent, your savings on just one light fixture can amount to as much as $58 or more over the life of the bulb.

Furthermore, since CFL bulbs last about 10,000 hours, 10 times as long as an incandescent bulb, you won’t need to replace it as often – saving you money and the hassle of replacing light bulbs frequently.

Do they really provide the same amount of light?

Yes, if you choose the right bulb. The old way of buying bulbs – watts – simply lets you know how much electricity a bulb uses. Instead, shop for the amount of light output, also known as lumens.  A quick look at our Bulb Selector will provide you with all the information you need!

CFLs: Savings in a Twist! {The Dirt on Green}

Have incandescent bulbs really been banned?

No, but new standards are phasing out inefficient light bulbs over an eight year period ending in 2020.

How do I dispose of CFL bulbs?

Safe disposal of CFLs is actually quite easy. CFLs do contain trace amounts of mercury (about 4 milligrams, or less than 100th of the amount in a mercury thermometer), so they should not be thrown in the trash where they can be broken. Instead, many areas provide curbside collection of CFLs or central recycling locations. If this is not available in your area, we offer several mail-back CFL recycling boxes.

To put this in perspective, check out these other products you probably have around your home that also contain mercury:

 – Watch battery – up to 25 milligrams

 – Thermometer – up to 2 grams

 – Tilt thermostat – up to 3 grams

If a CFL is accidentally broken in your home, you should immediately pick up every visible piece of glass, carefully wrap it in paper and stow it in an airtight plastic bag or sealed glass jar until you can take it to a suitable drop off location (as listed above). Additionally, you should vacuum area carpeting or rugs to pick up glass pieces too small to see and discard the vacuum’s bag. To really play it safe, ventilate the room so that any residual gas from missed shards of glass won’t accumulate in the room.

A little wary of CFLs? Want to save more?

LED lights are the next step in savings. LEDs are even more efficient at converting electricity to light than CFLs and they don’t contain any mercury or need special disposal. On top of that, LEDs have gotten significantly cheaper in recent years – some as low as $10! For more information on LED lighting, check out our previous blog posts on LED bulbs.

—The EnergyEarth Team

©2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Yadong Li and Li Jin. Environmental Engineering Science. October 2011, 28(10): 687-691. doi:10.1089/ees.2011.0027.

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls_about#how_work

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/cfl-mercury2.htm

How do solar lights work? They convert sunlight to energy, store it in a battery and release it at night.

More specifically, outdoor solar lights use standard solar cells in a very straightforward application: solar cell produces varying voltage and current depending on the size of the cell and the amount of light striking the surface. The solar cells are wired directly to the battery through a diode (which prevents the battery’s current from flowing back through the solar cell at night). During the day, the battery charges, reaching maximum charge except on heavily overcast or shorter winter days, and at night the solar cells stop producing power and the photo resistor turns on the LED. Simple as that!

Take Advantage of Free Power with Solar Devices! {The Dirt on Green}

Gama Sonic Solar Spot Light

Why go solar? It’s free light when and where you need it!

Power outages: Storms like Hurricane Sandy can unexpectedly leave you without power. One great way to shed some light is to bring your outdoor lights inside when the power is out!

Security lights may be even more critical during extended periods of power failure. Even if you have evacuated because your power is out, your solar security lights will still illuminate your home and help to keep it safe.

Hands-off: Long lasting solar lights use LED bulbs that last up to 50,000 hours or longer, meaning you won’t need to worry about replacing the bulb. Since it’s not using electricity that you’re paying for, you don’t need to worry about turning off the lights either.

No wires: More options for placement and much easier to install.

Take Advantage of Free Power with Solar Devices! {The Dirt on Green}

Heath/Zenith Solar Security Light

What type is best for you?

–          Ambient — Solar powered lights placed around gardens provide the type of illumination that tastefully emphasizes the presence of flowerbeds and garden paths.

–          Spotlighting —Solar spotlights directs the eye’s attention to a highlight in the garden or the front door. Numerous focal points can create a well-lit and attractive backdrop for parties and entertaining.

–          Functional lighting — Steps, walkways and driveways need to be illuminated for safety after dark. Choose light fixtures that cast their glow downward so that the majority of the light falls on the walkway.

Can these lights last all night?

Yes! The solar lights we offer can illuminate your yard from sunset to sunrise, if needed. Lights have continuous illumination power 2-10 hours and have varying on/off switching methods. Choose lighting with photo sensors or motion sensors for highest level of efficiency!

Take Advantage of Free Power with Solar Devices! {The Dirt on Green}

Brinkmann Sierra Solar Light

5 Tips for Smart and Easy Installation

  1. Decide on the area of your home or yard that receives plenty of sunlight.
  2. Decide on the style of fixture you want to use.
  3. If you need solar lights for a shaded or indoor area, some lights operate on a small system allowing you to install a solar panel on your roof or other sunny area.
  4. For ground lighting, position lights in a line or circle by placing them closer together instead of further apart to create a more effective lighting system.
  5. All of the solar lighting options we offer are easy to install. Simply push them into the ground or attach them to your patio or wall and you’re done!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

http://home.howstuffworks.com/solar-light.htm

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/yago141.html

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/summer-loving-energy-efficient-outdoor-lighting

http://voices.yahoo.com/basic-solar-landscape-lightingsecrets-professionals-11979997.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Landscape-With-Solar-Lighting  

What is Rope Caulk?

September 3rd, 2013 | Posted by EnergyEarth in Ask the Expert | Green Tips - (0 Comments)

Rope caulk is a putty-like substance that is used primarily for sealing drafts in windows or around door frames. The caulk is sold in long rope-like rolls which can be cut or torn off to the desired length. The caulk is pressed into a gap in the window pane or frame and seals the void, preventing air from passing through and increasing efficiency. Rope caulk is often easier to use than a conventional caulking gun and tube of caulk due to its ability to be pressed into tight spaces where it may be difficult to operate a caulking gun.

What is Rope Caulk? {The Dirt on Green}

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Liz West.

When applying rope caulk to a window or door, clean the surfaces of the window first where the caulking will be applied. A dirty surface can create a poor seal between the caulk and the window pane. Dirt and debris hinder the rope caulking from adhering, and the material may peel off after a short time, meaning the caulking will need to be re-applied to the window. After cleaning the surfaces, allow them to thoroughly dry before the caulk is applied.

What is Rope Caulk? {The Dirt on Green}

An installation trick is to dip the rope caulk into a container of lukewarm water for a few seconds prior to pressing it into place. This creates a more pliable caulk, which is easier to press into small gaps. The caulk should not be left in the water for any prolonged period of time as the water will soon dissolve the caulk and render it useless. When using the water-dip application method, a pair of disposable rubber gloves will keep the sticky caulk from attaching itself to any exposed skin.

What is Rope Caulk? {The Dirt on Green}

Temperature is the key to a successful rope caulk installation. The window should be no colder on its exterior surface than it is on its interior. Applying rope caulk to a window that is cold outside and warm inside will usually result in a failed adhesion of the caulk and an air draft. Rope caulk should be applied in the early fall months in most areas. This will allow the seal to set prior to cold weather setting in.

What is Rope Caulk? {The Dirt on Green}

Available in either grey or brown, rope caulk looks great, is easy to apply and cleans up well with water. The caulking compound creates a durable seal against most types of weather when installed correctly, and will reduce wasted energy from drafty windows and door frames. Before applying, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions when applying this product and store or dispose of any unused materials according to the package and local specifications.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Via WiseGEEK (edited).

Programmable Thermostats: How to Set and Save {The Dirt on Green}

Changing the temperature in your home, even by a few degrees, can use a lot of energy. Stay comfortable and save a bundle by simply investing in and knowing how to set your programmable thermostat to fit your lifestyle and save the most.

Check out this extremely helpful and informative video by the EPA for some easy tips to help you save money and energy:

One common myth is that when you reduce the thermostat for only a few hours it actually takes more energy overall to bring your home back to the desired temperature – but this isn’t true! By changing your green thermostat to run less while you aren’t home or asleep, you’ll save money and natural resources and possibly lengthen the life of your unit by allowing it to rest.

Programmable Thermostats: How to Set and Save {The Dirt on Green}

Aube 7 Day Thermostat

Programmable Thermostats: How to Set and Save {The Dirt on Green}

Honeywell 5-1-1 Day Thermostat

Programmable Thermostats: How to Set and Save {The Dirt on Green}

LuxPro 5-2 Day Thermostat

So, don’t forget to…

–          Choose the smart thermostats that are right for you and your family

–          While you are away or asleep:

  • Set your heat 8°F lower
  • Set your air conditioning 7° higher

–          Relax in your savings!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

We all know rechargeable batteries are better for the environment. But most of the time, it’s so much easier just to pick up a pack of the least expensive single-use batteries at the corner store when we need them. Did you know that rechargeable batteries cost significantly less overall and have a much lower environmental impact than disposable batteries? While they may cost a bit more initially, these energy saving accessories can be recharged and used hundreds of times, saving you money and helping you stay green with ease.

Why Use Rechargeable Batteries? {The Dirt on Green}

How do rechargeable batteries work?

Rechargeable batteries come in many sizes and types. Since we carry only rechargeable NiMH batteries, we’ll take a look at how they work specifically.

Rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries, or NiMH batteries, work in very much the same way its more common disposable counterpart does. However, NiMH batteries use a combination of nickel oxyhydroxide positive electrodes (NiOOH) and hydrogen-absorbing negative electrodes instead of cadmium or other, more harmful materials. A NiMH battery can have 2-3 times the capacity of cheaper batteries of the same capacity.

Why Use Rechargeable Batteries? {The Dirt on Green}

Rayovac Platinum AA Batteries

Why should you use them?

–          You’ll save money. Like we said, rechargeable batteries may cost more initially, but they can be reused hundreds of times and last for years, costing you significantly less overall.

–          You’ll help protect the environment. All batteries contain corrosive materials and heavy metals, even rechargeable ones. The fewer batteries produced and used, the fewer that get tossed.

–          You’ll conserve natural resources. Because rechargeable batteries can be used over and over, far fewer need to be manufactured.

–          You’ll reduce waste. Since you won’t be throwing away all those single-use batteries, they won’t end up in landfills or fill up your recycle bin nearly as quickly.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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